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The Mueller report has finally dropped — but we don’t know what’s in it.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has filed his final report to newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr, a Justice Department spokesperson said.
“The Special Counsel will be concluding his service in the coming days. A small number of staff will remain to assist in closing the operations of the office for a period of time,” Peter Carr, Mueller’s spokesman, wrote in a statement to VICE News. The arrival of the Mueller report marks a watershed moment in the two-year-old Russia investigation, and one of the most hotly anticipated events of Donald Trump’s eventful presidency. Mueller’s marching orders call for him to submit a “confidential” final report at the end of his investigation to the attorney general, explaining his decision to either prosecute or decline to press charges. But it remains unclear how detailed that document is, and whether it will resolve the various investigations and subplots that have emerged from the Russia investigation.
“The report is unlikely to be lengthy by design,” wrote Neal Katyal, the lawyer who authored the regulations that govern Mueller, in The New York Times on Feb. 21. “The special counsel regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1999, envision a report that is concise, ‘a summary’ of what he found. And Mr. Mueller’s mandate is limited: to look into criminal activity and counterintelligence matters surrounding Russia and the 2016 election, as well as any obstruction of justice relating to those investigations.” Mueller has already filed charges against 34 people, including several former top-ranking members of Trump’s inner circle, for a variety of crimes, from false statements to witness tampering and financial fraud. The special counsel’s investigation has resulted in:
- Numerous guilty pleas and cooperation agreements from former members of Trump’s inner circle, including campaign chairman Paul Manafort, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, assistant campaign manager Rick Gates, and Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen.
- Indictments of 25 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for meddling in the 2016 election with the intention of helping elect Donald Trump, by releasing hacked internal Democratic Party documents and blanketing social media with supportive posts. Twelve of those were Russian intelligence officers accused of stealing the emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
- The investigation has laid the groundwork for numerous state and federal investigations, including one in which Trump may already be an unindicted co-conspirator.
But Mueller has yet to publicly draw any conclusions about the questions at the core of his investigation: whether the Trump campaign worked with Russia to try to tip the 2016 election in Trump’s favor, and whether the White House engaged in a cover-up afterward.
Some argue that Mueller may never do so. Instead, his report may ultimately serve as a “road map” for congressional investigators in the Democrat-controlled House and prosecutors at the federal and state level whose criminal investigations remain ongoing, Katyal wrote. The fight for the report The filing of the Mueller report may mark the end of the special counsel’s nearly two-year-old probe, but it also sets the stage for a mammoth political struggle over whether the full document will be made public. Barr has said he’ll release as much of Mueller’s findings as the regulations and DOJ operating procedures will allow. But his lawyerly answers on that subject during his Senate confirmation hearings appeared designed to leave him plenty of wiggle room to hold back details, legal experts told VICE News. The Trump administration may argue that some portion of Mueller’s findings should be shielded by executive privilege, a legal basis the White House can use to justify making certain records confidential. Barr plans to release his own summary of Mueller’s findings to Congress, CNN has reported, citing unnamed sources.
Read: Why Mueller's final move may be a grand conspiracy case. But that’s unlikely to satisfy Democrats in the House of Representatives, who have vowed to wage a legal battle for the right to read every word of the report. The other investigations The fight for Mueller’s findings isn’t the only thing that’s about to kick into high gear. The completion of the Mueller report has little to no bearing on the several other major investigations surrounding Trump’s presidency, campaign, inaugural committee, charitable foundation and business.
Trump himself has been implicated by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in directing hush-money payments to two women in the midst of the campaign, according to legal filings in Cohen’s case. That fact has led some legal experts to suggest Trump may already be an “unindicted co-conspirator” in that case — a term made famous after it was applied to Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
Democrats, who swept back into power in the House of Representatives after November’s midterm elections, are firing up a slew of new probes overseen by House committees. The House Intelligence Committee has already launched an investigation into Trump’s foreign financial interests, and into whether his administration’s policies have been swayed by the pursuit of profits. Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are pushing deeper into Trump’s circle, and recently subpoenaed documents from his inaugural committee. That investigation concerns questions about a wide range of possible crimes, including conspiracy against the U.S., false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, inaugural committee disclosure violations, and violations of laws prohibiting contributions by foreign nations, according to CNN. New York State’s new attorney general, Letitia James, has likewise promised to “use every area of the law” to investigate Trump, his business and his family — and she has subpoenaed documents from Deutsche Bank about Trump’s past deals.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is working on its own investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia and has yet to formally arrive at any final conclusions.
In fact, there’s a minimum of 17 distinct cases stemming from at least seven different sets of prosecutors and investigators, according to one tally from December. And that figure doesn’t include what Congress is doing or inquiries into other administration officials that don’t directly involve Trump or Russia. Whatever Mueller says in his final report, his probe has already unleashed a wide range of other investigations that could sprawl well into the 2020 election season, and are under no centralized control.
In one prominent example, criminal charges against Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and “fixer,” were brought following a referral from Mueller’s office to prosecutors in New York City. Cohen, who pleaded guilty to orchestrating hush-money payments to women claiming affairs with Trump during the election, later appeared before three separate congressional panels investigating Trump’s activities. Cohen’s testimony before Congress about potential financial irregularities at the Trump Organization then prompted two separate New York State agencies — the state attorney general’s office and the Department of Financial Services — to launch their own investigations into Trump’s business activities.
Cohen will begin a three-year prison sentence for financial crimes and campaign finance violations on May 6.